Introduction In Chile, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a public health problem and require a comprehensive approach for effective control. Although the provision of clinical services has improved; the incidence and prevalence of STIs such as HIV, syphilis and gonorrhoea have remained stable over the last decade. In this study, we investigated healthcare providers’ (HCP) understanding of patients’ perceptions of STIs and explored which strategies might improve STI control locally.
Methods 48 semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with HCP. A third of the interviews were transcribed verbatim and translated from Spanish to English for thematic analysis, which followed an inductive approach based on grounded theory. Following the identification of themes, remaining interviews were coded utilising a method of constant comparison to highlight concordance and dissonance of participant views.
Results Participants perceived that the majority of patients were not concerned about STIs other than HIV, as campaigns are regularly launched in Chile principally focused on improving HIV awareness. Participants also recognised that symptoms are the primary impetus for patients attending health services and they are less likely to attend for STI prevention. However, HCP in this study also highlighted their work in schools which focuses on primary prevention by improving the sexual health knowledge of young people. There was strong agreement by participants that this was the most appropriate strategy to disseminate STI information to this cohort. Participants proposed that midwives could play a key role by working closely with young people at schools as part of a comprehensive sexual health educational program.
Conclusion We recommend strengthening STI control through continuation of existing activities at PHC centres and enhancing current interventions in schools through a greater investment of resources focused on improving the sexual health literacy of Chilean young people.